The Backchannel: How Audiences are Using Twitter and Social Media and Changing Presentations Forever
A book by Cliff Atkinson
"Presenters who don’t learn to manage the backchannel will not only lose the respect of the audience, they’ll miss the opportunity to have much more interesting and relevant conversations.” – Pamela Slim, author ofEscape … see full wiki
I've been in conferences where people have twittered about the content, session, speaker, etc. But rarely have I seen a speaker take advantage of that backchannel conversation in order to shape and improve the quality of the presentation. Cliff Atkinson has written a book that every speaker (especially in the technical arena) should have high on their reading list... The Backchannel: How Audiences are Using Twitter and Social Media and Changing Presentations Forever. It's critical to understanding exactly what Twitter brings into the presentation mix, whether you want it to be there or not.
Contents: Why Are You Calling Me a #@*% on Twitter?; How to Join a Twitter Backchannel; The Rewards of the Backchannel; The Risks of the Backchannel; Preparing for the Backchannel; Making Your Ideas Twitter-Friendly; Joining the Backchannel in Conversation; Handling Instant Feedback from the Backchannel; Holding Together the Backchannel Experience; Appendix A - The Four Tweets Worksheet; Appendix B - The Twn Tweets Worksheet; Index
The first part of the book starts out fairly basic, especially if you're already aware of how Twitter can enhance a conference. Complete with some strong real-life examples, Atkinson shows how Twitter can be both a distraction and a benefit to a speaker, depending on whether they are prepared to deal with statements and opinions that may not be entirely complementary. Once you accept the fact that Twitter *will* be active during your presentation, Atkinson demonstrates how you can actively engage that backchannel and make your ideas more twitter-friendly. For instance, your key points should be such that they fit in the 140-character limit of Twitter. In fact, you can even use the "Four Tweets" concept to develop the outline of your presentation, making the entire session geared for twittering and sharing. You can really dive in deeply if you'd like and use his concept for a Twitter break to allow people to offer feedback which then gets incorporated into the next element of the presentation. Nothing like having real-time feedback as you talk...
This book surprised me to a degree. I expected it to be a basic "here's Twitter, and did you know people tweet about you when you talk?" volume. I was wrong. I hadn't considered managing the backchannel to the degree that Atkinson explains, but I now see how it's possible and how it's beneficial to do so. These concepts, as well as the likelihood of a strong audience backchannel, seems like it would be more prevalent for tech presentations and conferences. But as Twitter continues to become more mainstream, I think that speakers *have* to be aware of how Twitter is going to function during your talk, whether you like the idea or not.
Yes, it does seem like speakers have a ton of stuff to consider and incorporate in order to have a successful presentation. For better or worse, you now have one more... Twitter. The Backchannel should be on your reading list for both awareness of what happens during your presentation and for how to manage that conversation for the benefit of all involved.